Our Stories

Member Spotlight: 7 Questions With Ronnie Holtshausen From Citic Pacific Mining

7 Questions with… Ronnie Holtshausen from CITIC Pacific Mining 

Every quarter you will hear from one of the WA member representatives about their Australia China business relationships, with tips and insights on how you can build and forge your own.
This month features Ronnie Holtshausen from CITIC Pacific Mining. CITIC Pacific Mining has been a long-time member and gold sponsor of ACBC WA.

Ronnie Holtshausen

Director - HR; Port Operations | CITIC Pacific Mining

CITIC Pacific Mining’s Ronnie Holtshausen has been involved with the Sino Iron project for approximately five years – most of this time he’s been responsible for the company’s port operations at Cape Preston. In 2017 he was also appointed Director of Human Resources.

Ronnie has extensive experience, both in Australia and abroad. This includes the management of container, bulk cargo, bulk liquid and car terminals, with large workforces. He was also the chairman of a joint venture company with an international container consortium, managing ports and terminals across Africa. 

These days he’s happy to call Perth home.

1. Tell us about your business?

CITIC Pacific Mining (CPM) is the company behind Sino Iron. We’re already Australia’s biggest magnetite iron ore operation, located 100km south-west of Karratha, Western Australia. Our investment in downstream processing and associated infrastructure is delivering premium-quality magnetite concentrate to the world’s steel mills. As demand for high-grade product increases, we’re helping secure the long-term competitiveness of Western Australia’s iron ore industry. We’re a fully integrated pit-to-port operation.
It’s a massive project. All six lines are now operational, with 2017 a year of record production. We’ve got a diverse workforce but we’re one team, with Chinese magnetite processing expertise combining with Australian construction and mining operation know-how. Our parent company, CITIC Limited, is China’s largest conglomerate.

2. What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on? 

What I love about this job is no two days are ever the same. I look after two challenging areas of the business - Human Resources (HR) and our facilities at Cape Preston Port.
I’m fortunate to have a very capable and dedicated HR team, providing key services to employees and contractors who work on site. This includes recruitment, ensuring the remuneration and benefits of our employees are up to date, job-specific training to new starters and contractors and refresher training for our existing employees. The team also provides industrial relations support. Such a large multi-skilled workforce means we work with five major unions – from mining to maritime. The team also provides support for performance management, business transformation/optimisation, organisational restructuring, talent management and succession planning advice to the business leaders. As we have some Chinese engineers working on the project, we also make sure immigration matters are in order.
At Cape Preston Port, I manage a dedicated team responsible for the shipping of processed magnetite to our major customers. On a typical day the port would be loading two mini-cape vessels at the inner anchorages. The port also maintains its own port infrastructure and marine operations. This includes crew transfer vessels, tugs, pilot boats, work boats and transhipping. 
We operate and maintain terminal facility infrastructure. This includes physical structures, such as the causeway, breakwater, wharves, channels and superstructure, such as the conveyors, stackers, reclaimer, barge loader and transhipper. The port also provides towage and pilotage to all the vessels calling in, liaising with marine authorities including the Western Australia Department of Transport.

3. What would you say are the key elements for a fruitful business relationship between Australia and China? 

On the HR side of the business, the team has good relationships with the CITIC Limited HR team, as there are a number of areas of commonality, particularly when it involves training and development of employees. We have also learnt to deal with cultural barriers and to foster a relationship, based on mutual understanding and trust. 
The same goes for the Port. As an example, we need to work very closely with our overseas marketing representatives to ensure timely and appropriate delivery arrangements to our customers. Good communication with our customers is also critical to ensuring we are providing the product they want. 
Also, as our parent company has invested substantial capital in the project, it’s incumbent on me and the port team to obtain maximum benefit from this investment. Language and culture is not a barrier to our business relationships, as we have learnt to understand each other over the last few years and have a common goal, to make the business as successful as possible. 

4. How important is China to your business? 

China and the opportunities provided by its growing economy are fundamental to our project. Quite simply, without Chinese investment and long-term vision for the project, I don’t think Sino Iron would exist. This would have been a huge loss for the Western Australian community. Deloitte recently conducted an economic impact assessment on the value of Sino Iron over its 40-year life. The numbers are staggering – more than $5 billion in royalties to the State Government, $8.7 billion in wages for our local staff and $51 billion in spending on goods and services in Western Australia alone. 
But just as important is the new industry we’re creating here. For the first time, the Pilbara’s vast reserves of magnetite ore, with no value in-situ, is being transformed into a high-grade premium export product for Australia. As Chinese steel mills look to source cleaner, lower impurity feedstock, we can see demand only growing. Projects such as Sino Iron will ensure the WA iron ore industry is ready to respond to this changing market dynamic.

5. How do you see the future of the Australia-China economic relationship? 

I’m very optimistic. Every time I travel to China I’m amazed by not only the economic and social development of the country, but the understanding of Australia and important role we’re playing in assisting China’s development. At Sino Iron, we very much see ourselves as being central to growing this relationship. We’re forever learning from each other, sharing cultural celebrations, such as Chinese New Year, China National Day, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, ANZAC Day, Australia Day, NAIDOC Week, Christmas and even the Melbourne Cup!
The success of our project will only serve to deepen this relationship. In the future, I think our grandchildren will think nothing of heading to China for education, work and recreation, and vice-versa. With time, I think the prejudices we sometimes hear about overseas investment will disappear, as the local community comes to recognise the benefits of having strong links with the most populous nation in the world.

6. What role do you see the ACBC playing? 

The ACBC plays a critical role in fast-tracking the development of this relationship. Of course the council provides a vital link for Australian businesses wanting to break into the Chinese market. But more importantly for us, we highly value the role the ACBC plays in advocating the importance of Chinese investment in Australia, both to government and the wider community.

7. Are there any takeaways you can give a business just starting their Australia-China journey? 

Any new business wishing to negotiate with China needs to recognize and understand there will be language and cultural differences between the parties, particularly when it involves business dealings. Australian businesses have adopted regimes over time that work for their people and environment. China has done the same. It’s important that both parties understand these differences exist. Once this has been acknowledged, it opens the door for the parties to seek agreement on common goals. This can only be achieved through honest communication between parties and a willingness to make the relationship work – compromise will be required on both sides. This will ultimately lead to the development of a relationship built on trust and friendship. Making it easier to come to agreement on common goals, objectives and achievement targets. This principle applies equally for relationships at government level and the wider community.